Female ECs Answer Top of Mind Questions from Female RCs

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Ziana Kotadia, Women Leadership Editor
Temi Ojuade, Women Leadership Editor

Temi Ojuade (MBA ’23) asked fellow female RCs for questions they would like answered by female ECs and worked with Ziana Kotadia (MBA ’22) to get these resourceful answers. 

This article was inspired by two things we have heard repeatedly about asking questions at HBS. First, you should ask any question you have because there is a very high likelihood that someone else has the same question. By asking your question, you provide an opportunity for others to learn from the answer. Also, the HBS community is a deep well of knowledge, experiences, and networks where you can always find answers or directions to get answers to your questions. For these reasons, we decided to crowdsource questions that were top of mind for the women in the RC year and get their answers from the amazing women in the EC year.

RC Question: Could you share tips about how you made your closest female friend(s) at HBS?

EC Answer: I have personally found that small group interactions are the best way to make close female friends. I reached out to other women in my section who I knew I would get along well with (we had shared interests and were just kind and good people) and asked them if they’d like to grab a coffee. I also tried to organize section ladies’ nights to get everyone together. Making close friends at HBS requires you to put yourself out there, and to many people, that feels really uncomfortable. I totally understand that hesitation, but small things (even asking people if they want to read cases together), can go a long way. 

RC Question: How can I decide how vulnerable I should be with my classmates/sectionmates?

EC Answer: I would encourage you to share as much as you feel comfortable sharing. It is sometimes hard to be the first to be vulnerable in this setting, but I assure you that it will be worth it. Not only do you realize how kind and compassionate your sectionmates are, but you will also build stronger and more genuine friendships. The section experience becomes a lot more enjoyable when everyone starts to be themselves and let down their guards. It takes the pressure off to always be “on” and makes class discussions far more interesting and fun. It is also helpful to remember, if being vulnerable in front of your entire section feels daunting, there are many other ways to open up. One of them is through Community MyTakes, and another is through Evolve groups.

RC Question: What is the best career advice you have received at HBS that you would like to pass on?

EC Answer: I feel like often we put too much pressure on ourselves to find the “perfect” job immediately, post business school. The best piece of advice I have been given is not to worry too much. It is easier said than done but important nonetheless. On average, post-HBS students change their jobs within 18 months. We will likely be working for the next 30 years, so it is okay to approach the journey as a marathon rather than a sprint. Learn from your classmates; they have incredible experiences and will open your eyes to jobs that you never knew existed. Take risks during your summer internship; try something new. The job searching process is as much about finding something you like as learning what you do not like.

RC Question: How were you able to define your priorities amongst the many events and programs at HBS?

EC Answer: Everyone has a different goal when coming into HBS. Some people are here to network and meet as many people as possible; others come to find their lifelong friends. Some people are here to launch themselves into a corporate career; others want to build their startup. Some people are here in long-term and long-distance relationships; others are here to find their lifelong partners. To know what to prioritize, you first need to ask yourself, “what do I want to get out of my HBS experience?” Someone once told me that there is no “right” way to do HBS. You first have to figure out what it is you want from your next two years. Only then can you prioritize things that will help you achieve that goal.

RC Question: What are some of the key benefits of being an active member of the Women Student Association?

EC Answer: Being an active member of the WSA gives you an opportunity to be a part of an incredible community of women on campus. It is a great way to meet people outside of your section, including ECs. Sometimes it is really hard to find a place where you belong at HBS, and for me, the WSA has been a place where I can find like-minded people who also care about gender equity and female empowerment. Being on the WSA Board is also really exciting; you get to talk to professors leading research on gender equity, help organize events, and it’s always a welcoming break from case reading.

RC Question: How did you address sexist commentary in cases or sexist comments/interactions in the classroom (especially when they aren’t egregious but are still harmful)?

EC Answer: Firstly I’m sorry you’ve experienced that! Your Ed Rep, Community Values Rep, Women’s Rep, and section Male Allies are great, hopefully confidential, people for you to speak with. I often talked to one of them when I felt like the class discussion was slightly offensive or incomplete. I would also encourage you to participate in Continuing Conversations after class to make sure that you vocalize how you are feeling. As these things are often context dependent, it would be hard for me to give blanket advice. As always, prevention is better than cure, so I hope that the training and talks throughout this year stop this behavior from reoccurring. I know the WSA co-presidents are always looking for ways to prevent this behavior from happening, so you could always reach out to them and work together to find more systematic solutions to this problem.

RC Question: What advice would you give to an RC starting a family during her MBA?

EC Answer: Starting a family during business school is completely doable, but it requires an understanding and willingness to accept the trade-offs that come with it. For example, choosing to forgo international travel and social events due to potential conflicts with pregnancy/delivery. The most important lesson I’ve learned is to be transparent with your classmates and professors and keep everyone in the loop about what is going on so you can be successful in the classroom. Being a parent is the most beautiful thing I have ever experienced. Still, it is also very time-consuming and exhausting, especially early on or if you are a first-time parent. Therefore, I would advise that you arrange for help ahead of time (a parent or close friend) who might be able to stay with you for the first few weeks will help you adjust to having the baby at home. I could go on and on, but I think just having the right mindset and clear priorities will help you avoid FOMO and enjoy your life—after all, it is YOUR MBA experience, and it does not have to be the same as everybody else’s. This is a great time to expand your family!

RC Question: I live in the dorms, and cooking is not as easy. Also, I do not want to eat out all the time. Are there any hacks for eating sustainably while living in the dorm?

EC Answer: Meal prep is key, as well as choosing meals that are easy to cook and require minimal effort! Invest in some good Tupperware and designate one night a week to get your cooking for the week done. Getting a fridge for your dorm room is also a great idea. It can help to have a stash of late-night healthy snacks readily available, think hummus and carrot sticks, or a trail mix. Trader Joe’s is amazing for all the essentials, and some of their frozen food isn’t too unhealthy either. In terms of freezer meals, I’m personally a big fan TJ’s Palak Paneer and Channa Masala. On the very healthy side, I love to eat oatmeal, apple and peanut butter and drink smoothies. They are all very easy to prep when you’re in a rush and don’t have a good kitchen. 

Ziana Kotadia (MBA ’22) is from the UK, and most recently made the move from London to Boston. She loves to travel, learn about new cultures and enjoys eating her way through cities. She loves to cook and is passionate about great food. 

Temi Ojuade (MBA ’23) is from Nigeria. Prior to HBS, she worked in special situations and distressed investing in London and at an education company in Nigeria. She loves amplifying stories of women. She enjoys baking and rewatching episodes of the medical series, Grey’s Anatomy.